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Accordion Dreams

Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 6/28/2001

Accordion Dreams Transcript

You probably didn’t know that June is National Accordion Appreciation Month, but Shelley Fraser Mickle remembers that much-maligned, oft-forgotten instrument. 

This is National Accordion Appreciation Month, and probably no one has ever appreciated an accordion more than I did when I was in the fourth grade living in Lawrence, Kansas. That’s when my boyfriend Luther, who lived one block over, took up the accordion, because his mother said if he didn’t, she would write him out of her will and make him weed the garden every day for two years, even in the winter. 

You see, Luther came from a Polish family where playing the accordion was a matter of ethnic pride. Also, there was an accordion in the attic which Luther’s five older brothers had stored away when their accordion teacher told them they would be doing a great service to the world if they moved on to something, anything, which would not require any musical talent whatsoever. So, Luther was to fill all of his mother’s dreams by becoming the outstanding accordionist that one day Lawrence Welk would call to be on his show. 

That year, my family had just moved to Kansas from a cotton town in Arkansas, where my southern culture demanded that I become accomplished in playing the piano. I was hoping that the piano couldn’t be moved all the way to Kansas, but there is sat in the living room as the torture instrument I thought it was. So when my friend Luther strapped on his accordion with its short little row of keys and pulled back and forth the pleated bellows – well, I thought that was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. And playing it seemed to be so much fun! In fact, if you want to know the truth, I think Luther became my boyfriend largely because of my fascination with that accordion. 

However, when Luther first began playing it, whenever he strapped it on he fell over backwards or disappeared behind it altogether, except for his feet and the top of his head. “Hold your feet wide apart,” his mother coached. “Lean against the wall,” I suggested. 

Luckily, by the night of Luther’s big recital he had grown. No longer were we worried about his getting through a song without falling over, or the accordion slipping down to his shoe tops. That night at Luther’s recital, his mother and I sat side by side in the big auditorium as proud as two hens viewing her hatched chicks as Luther came out onto the stage. And then he began to play. 

Brief sound clip 

Posted in Music, Stories